Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine, Singapore

sometime last year, yet another addition was made to the array of imperial treasure and crystal jade restaurants within ngee ann city (there are so many variations of the 2 brand names within that one building that i always find that i have to triple check which outlet is the one i’m meant to be heading to) – imperial treasure shanghai cuisine. head up to the 4th floor of the building and you’ll find it where coca restaurant used to be; its hard to miss because of the row of cocoon-like booth seats lining the side of the restaurant.
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if not for the fact that our shanghainese family friends took us for dinner there one night, i probably would never have ventured into this restaurant. it exudes a fancier and more upmarket vibe than the regular chinese restaurant chains like crystal jade la mian xiao long bao or din tai fung, more like somewhere that you’d go to for a sit-down extended family dinner rather than somewhere i’d head to with friends for a casual dim sum meal. boy am i glad they took us there that one night though, because that was the fateful meal where i discovered my current favourite xiao long baos in singapore!

i was so impressed with the food we had with our family friends (we had a proper shanghainese feast – starters, pork buns, dim sum at the side, fish, duck, rice cake, rice wine dessert etc etc) that i vowed to return, and jumped at the opportunity to do so when a craving for xiao long baos came around…

the great thing is that they serve dim sum even at dinner time, so i visited after work on a weekday night for my yummy shanghainese dim sum fix. service is top-notch and extremely attentive, and we were given a booth seat which was nice and cosy for two. besides booth seats, they also have a good number of private rooms and regular tables. i love how the area is quite spacious and the tables are well-spaced to afford diners privacy and a pleasant dining experience.
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 here’s the dim sum menu:
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between the 2 of us, we ordered 4 different dim sums and a bowl of noodles to share. would definitely have gone for more if not for the fact that i had a huge and late lunch that day! the meal started with the usual chilled braised peanuts that you get at chinese restaurants, and its worth mentioning that they were pretty good – well-braised to soft perfection and very nicely-flavoured too.

first of our dim sums to arrive was the xiao long bao:
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shanghai steamed pork dumpling – $7.80

as i said above, these are my current favourite xiao long baos in all of singapore – they are divine! served piping hot, the xlb skin is smooth, delicate, moist and thin (but not too thin such that you have soup leaking out everywhere), bursting open to reveal wonderfully tasty soup and tender and juicy meat.
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all i can say is it’ll be a while before/ it won’t be any time soon that i return to din tai fung or taste paradise for their xiao long baos. this is officially my new go-to place for these little packets of tasty goodness! perfection in a mouthful mmm…

we also ordered a plate of pork buns:
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pan fried shanghai pork bun – $4.20

these were some beautiful buns 😉 just check out how perfectly pan fried they were:
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love the crispiness that the lightly-charred base added to the pau which was a great addition of texture to the pau skin. the pau skin itself was great – soft (but still retaining a nice chewy bite), light and of just the right thickness. as for the meat within the pau, it was actually pretty much like the xiao long bao filling, as moist and tasty and juicy as ever! together with the fluffy pau skin, this made for a great little pau. such perfectly pan-fried paus are not that easy to come by, so i’d recommend ordering this for a taste of some typically shanghainese dim sum.20140812_191245

 moving on with the pork filling agenda, we also got a plate of pan-fried pork dumplings:20140812_191320
pan-fried pork dumpling – $4.20

the last of our porky items for the day – guo tie, and they didn’t disappoint either! these delicious dumplings literally exploded when you bit into them, the piping hot porky juice filling your mouth. the skin was soft and thin but wonderfully crisp on the bottom, and each of them contained as much juice as the xiao long baos. definitely one of the better guo tie renditions i’ve had!

the final dim sum we ordered was the scallion pastry aka chong you bing:
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deep fried scallion pastry – $3.20

this wasn’t quite what we expected as we were imagining more of a flat chive pancake-like dish. nevertheless, it was pretty good! the pastry was flaky and light, encasing a generous amount of scallions that were fresh, crunchy and well-fried. even though it was deep fried, it wasn’t too oily and was very tasty.
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 finally, we ordered a bowl of noodles to round off the meal:20140812_190932
noodle soup with pork and vegetable dumplings

i very fondly remember this to be a very delicious bowl of noodles! much finer than the regular la mian or noodle soups that you get at other more mass-market xlb restaurants, the soup was delicately flavoured and noodles cooked to perfection. they were thin, tasted very fresh and had a nice bite to them. as for the soup, it was extremely tasty and had a very strong taste of natural sweetness from chicken (i think? if our taste buds didn’t fail us). what we liked most about it was that it didn’t taste like any old noodle soup; instead, the soup tasted like very well-done double-boiled-type chicken soup that they serve on a per bowl basis to start the meal in good chinese restaurants (sans the fancy ingredients that normally go with it eg abalone, mushrooms, chicken etc). the dumplings in the soup were also great:
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they were big, the dumpling skin was extremely smooth, fine and thin, and they were generously stuffed with yummy pork and fresh vegetables. i’m sorry i don’t have the exact name and price of this bowl of noodles, but it was really good and i’d certainly order this (or any other bowl of noodles to try something new, for that matter) again when i return.

imperial treasure shanghai cuisine is a great place for a spot of shanghainese treats. besides the divine dim sum offerings, they also serve a range of main dishes and more substantial food for a full-blown chinese banquet. because not many people know of or pay much attention to its existence, i’d say their xiao long baos are a hidden gem (for now, at least). reasonable prices (our total bill came up to less than $40 if i remember correctly), great ambience, wonderful service, delicious food and a convenient location smack in the middle of orchard road – what more can one ask for? definitely worth a try!

Imperial Treasure Shanghai Cuisine
Takashimaya S.C., #04-22
391 Orchard Road
Singapore 238872

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Swee Choon Dim Sum, Singapore

[disclaimer: sorry for the unoptimal quality of the pictures in this post!!! i only had my phone on me to snap pics and also by the time the food came, we were so starving that i wasn’t too fussed about getting the perfect shot before tucking in heh. especially sorry for the unappealing pictures of half-eaten food!]

finally managed to head down to the famous swee choon dim sum recently for a mega dim sum feast! headed there after an intense wednesday at work and was tricked by google maps into thinking that it was really near to lavender mrt station; it was not very near after all and by the time we spotted the big red swee choon sign, we were starving and dying to eat.IMG-20130814-WA0031 unsurprisingly, there was a queue when we arrived around 7pm but thankfully it moved quickly and we were soon comfortably seated at a large table in the air-conditioned part of the restaurant! (we originally considered sitting outside so we wouldn’t have to queue for a table, but the outdoor seating is in this extremely dark alley behind the restaurant – not a very pleasant or optimal eating environment at all!) the queuing time is also made better by the fact that there are seats for you to sit while waiting, and menus and order forms are given to you so you can order and the food arrives soon after you get seated at a table.IMG-20130814-WA0029 the menu is very excitingly extensive:20130814_19195020130814_19195520130814_191935given the huge range, it’s really easy to get carried away ordering everything that takes your fancy. but then again over-ordering always happens without fail when i’m eating with these two, so my take on the consequences of being spoilt for choice by a huge menu is probably just an excuse for the fact that we ended up ordering $90 worth of dim sum that night. (who said swee choon was cheap?!)

20130814_194305 dim sum feast for “three boys” because apparently i eat the equivalent of what a 3rd boy would eat

20130814_193844 what always happens when food is served #asianproblems

20130814_194241 1. drunken chicken
the drunken chicken was quite decent though i would have preferred it to be a little more chilled. the meat was tender, moist, and well-flavoured while the sauce was light and tasty. we all quite enjoyed it! 

20130814_194422 2. mee sua kueh
the mee sua kueh is one of swee choon’s specialities. i’ve don’t think i’ve ever had anything like it! we all agreed that it was quite an interesting item on the menu – mee sua is fried together into these block-like pieces which have crispy brown outsides. i think its worth ordering just to give it a try, but it fills you up rather quickly and can get a bit boring to eat after a while since there’s nothing else (ie no meat, veggie etc) added to it. its pretty much eating plain fried mee sua in “kueh” form. will probably give this a miss the next time i’m there!

20130814_1944473. har gao
i enjoyed the har gaos although i would have preferred the skin to be a tad thinner. as for the filling, it was really yummy and they were generous with the prawns that were fresh and crunchy!

20130814_1946534. pei tan porridge
the porridge was very average, neither great nor bad. always a nice accompaniment to dim sum though, and they do a decent enough rendition of it, so its worth ordering if you want some porridge to go along with your dim sum.

20130814_1946595. pancake with egg & meat floss
another swee choon specialty! sounds like quite a strange combination and looks that way too, but it was pretty good! tasted like an asian savoury crepe, and the cucumber stick in the centre added bite and crunch to the otherwise soft mix of things. it was a good combination of tastes and textures!

20130814_194702 6. xiao long bao
i didn’t have very high hopes for the xiao long baos but they were actually pretty good and one of the better ones I’ve had in Singapore i feel! we ended up ordering 3 longs in total (omg now that I think about it that 1 long each hahahahaha. extreme eating with these 2 once again.). they were really well done – the skin wasn’t too thick and the soup and meat within were very yummy, especially when eaten fresh and piping hot!

20130814_1947107. egg tarts
the egg tarts were not bad, but nothing to shout about. they were portugese-style tarts as you can see from the pictures and the crust was flaky and crispy while the filling was quite wobbly and smooth, and not too sweet. didn’t get as excited as i usually do about egg tarts though… not sure why. i’ve been trying to think of what it was missing but i can’t seem to pinpoint it. maybe the filling was a little too wobbly and soft for my liking? the texture was almost like that of steamed egg; i guess i prefer fillings that are a little firmer!20130814_200445
very soft filling – a little too soft for my liking

20130814_1947358. prawn and banana fritter
i used to think that prawn and banana fried together in a fritter was an extremely strange combination, but i’ve come to really enjoy it! swee choon’s rendition of it was good. the banana was nice and sweet, the prawns were juicy, and the batter wasn’t too thick. the oil it was fried in was fresh (hate when oil is re-used to fry things; i always taste it in the deepfried sticks of things at old chang kee), and the 3 components all complemented each other well.

20130814_1949149. cha siu bao
the cha siu bao was good! the skin was fluffy and nice and they were generous with the filling that was juicy and not too sweet! yumz.

20130814_19535210. siew mai
they were generous with the siew mai filling which was sweet and juicy, and the skin wasn’t too thick! i remember thinking that it was a little heavy/dense and could have been more daintily done though, but then again this isn’t fine dim sum dining so i guess expectations should be managed in that aspect!

20130814_195436 11. (ryan and) big pao
the big pao was stuffed with minced pork, chicken, egg and mushroom. the ingredients made the filling nice and juicy and it was great when eaten hot, but i felt that the skin could have been a little thinner (even though it was quite fluffy).

20130814_20092912. liu sha bao
can’t have dim sum without having liu sha bao!!! swee choon’s liu sha baos are definitely one of the best i’ve had in singapore – they nailed the most important part of the bao which is to have the piping hot filling ooze out when the skin is broken. besides that, the taste of the custard filling was really really good. it was a perfect mix sweet and savoury with a texture that wasn’t too smooth; i feel that liu sha bao filling needs to retain a hint of graininess to represent the salted egg yolk that goes into it! we had another round of these treasures and i was clearly extremely pleased:IMG_20130814_221113

20130814_20294113. sesame pumpkin
i quite enjoyed this – it was basically sesame-coated pumpkin encasing red bean paste! everything went together quite nicely and i love how the sesame seeds coating the pumpkin added bite to the otherwise soft and mochi/tang yuan-like texture of the pancake. could have been a little less greasy though!

20130814_20370214. fried prawn dumplings
didn’t try this because by this point, i was completely dimsum-ed out and about to pass out from a food coma but my friends raved about it. supposedly really really good wan tons with amazing juicy prawn fillings. i would probably have had one if they weren’t fried, but i just couldn’t stomach anything so greasy anymore!

15. we also had their fried rice with shrimps and fried hor fun with shrimps (which i don’t have individual pics of), both of which we were disappointed by. they were nothing exceptional and hence not worth filling yourself up with at all! am definitely going to stick to the dim sum items on the menu the next time i visit.

20130814_205248 16. dessert
their desserts were decent! we had 3 desserts to share (even though we were close to rolling around on the floor in our stuffed states by this time) – grass jelly, ice jelly, and mango with pomelo and sago. the jellies were smooth and not overly sweet, while the mango with pomelo and sago was not bad but could have been thicker and less diluted. i was not expecting much at all since the focus of this place is on their dim sum and desserts would probably be more of an afterthought on the menu but was pleasantly surprised.  a good way to wash down all that food and end the meal on a sweet note!

20130814_210019doctor-to-be warning us of the potential ailments we might suffer from next time if we keep feasting so uninhibitedly each time we meet

given that there are not many places in singapore that serve dim sum at night (swee choon opens from 6pm-6am), its quite likely that i will be back at swee choon one day if i’m in search of dim sum past daylight. there are some hits and misses but it is overall a pretty good place with a very extensive menu so that everyone can satisfy their varied dim sum cravings. its definitely not a place for finely-made dim sum, but for the price you pay, i feel that you can’t complain at all!

(especially if you aren’t as crazy as the 3 of us who somehow managed to chalk up $90 worth of dim sum:20130814_210948
i do not know how my work clothes survived it… thankfully i did not have to go home with split seams hahaha.)

Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant Pte Ltd

191 Jalan Besar
Singapore 208882

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feasting friends forever